Compatibilist, by Ken Babstock

Awareness was intermittent. It sputtered.

And some of the time you were seen

asleep. So trying to appear whole

you asked of the morning: Is he free

who is not free from pain? It started to rain

a particulate alloy of flecked grey: the dogs

wanted out into their atlas of smells; to pee

where before they had peed, and might

well pee again – thought it isn’t

a certainty. What is? In the set,

called Phi, of all possible physical worlds

resembling this one, in which, at time t,

was written ‘Is he free who is not free – ‘

and comes the cramp. Do you want

to be singular, onstage, praised,

or blamed? I watched a field of sun-

flowers dial their ruddy faces toward

what they needed and was good. At noon

they were chalices upturned, gilt-edged,

and I lived in that same light but felt

alone. I chose to phone my brother,

over whom I worried, and say so.

He whispered, lacked affect. He’d lost

my record collection to looming debt. I

forgave him – through weak connections,

through buzz and oceanic crackle –

immediately, without choosing to,

because it was him I hadn’t lost; and

later cried myself to sleep. In that village

near Dijon, called Valley of Peace,

a pond reflected its dragonflies

over a black surface at night, and

the nuclear reactor’s far-off halo

of green light changed the night sky

to the west. A pony brayed, stamping

a hoof on inlaid stone. The river’s reeds

lovely, but unswimmable. World death

on the event horizon; vigils with candles

in cups. I’ve mostly replaced my records,

and acted in ways I can’t account for.

Cannot account for what you’re about

to do. We should be held and forgiven.